Same difference

A telling image fronts Anand Vasu’s piece in the Hindustan Times about the decline and fall of Lalit Modi. And what is most telling about the demonization of the erstwhile high-flier is that the match is being applied by the BCCI.

That is the single significant development of the last 24 hours: the onus of selective leaking has changed hands, from the investigative wings of the government to the top honchos of the BCCI/IPL. Various newspapers have this morning claimed to be in possession of documents relating to the ownership of the Royals and Kings XI Punjab — documents, ironically, that the BCCI says it does not have in its possession.

And then there is Shashank Manohar’s startling media conference of yesterday afternoon — an exercise in alchemy if ever there was one, designed to whitewash the role of the BCCI functionaries who comprise the governing council.

When the firestorm first broke out, this is what Manohar had to say:

“Till date, you have made public statements about a lot of issues which were not even discussed in the meetings of the governing council when it is the governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard to each and every issue related to IPL.”

Now consider this statement, made yesterday:

An allegation is being made and the media is saying all the members of the governing council are party to all the decisions. Now most of the contracts have been entered into without the consent of the governing council and they’ve been brought to the governing council after the contract was signed. So the governing council has no other option and are presented with a fait accompli,” Manohar reason, before citing an example.

How does this statement jell with the previous one? If the council had the authority to take all decisions, how does Manohar — who as BCCI boss is the ultimate deciding authority — get away with saying most contracts were entered into without the council’s conduct?

Manohar’s cleverness lies in the deft way he pulled the wool over the media’s eye with his “example”:

“I came here [Mumbai] three days in advance to look into all the documents and contracts in view of the ongoing controversy. I called Sundar Raman [the IPL CEO] because on that day in the evening there was an IPL awards function. I asked for the contract of that function and I was told ‘Sir, there was no contract. The contract terms were finalised last night.’ And this he informs me at 3 in the afternoon when the function is going to be held at 7 in the evening.

The first problem with the example is that by pinning his case to a current example, he tries to make light of the council’s constant, continued abdication of responsibility. Assuming for the sake of argument that he discovered this problem two days ago by happenstance — how does that excuse the fact that much of the revelations relate to 2008/2009, when the IPL was being formed, franchises were onboarded, and rights relating to telecast, the internet et al were being gift-wrapped and handed out?

Did Manohar not know, over the course of two years and more, who had been awarded all these rights? Did he and his fellow council members not bother to find out? If, as he says, the council makes all decisions relating to the IPL, then was the council party to the grant of these rights? If not, why not?

Even if you look at the example Manohar cites, it indicates at the very least the shoddy style of the council’s functioning. Did Manohar and his cronies not know, even before the start of IPL-3, that there would be a closing ceremony? Why did he wait till the day before the event to ask — and that too, tangentially — about the event and the relevant contracts? In a properly run organization, would all details relating to IPL-3 not have been discussed, and decided upon, well before the event began?

Manohar counters the charge of unprofessionalism by obfuscating, by suggesting that it is not his job to look into all the documentation. The council’s job, he says, is merely to decide; from then on, it is the job of the professional managers to nail down the details.

Fair enough. So the question remains: did the council decide anything?

Did it decide who would get the internet rights? Did it decide the television rights? Did it decide the modalities of bidding for the two franchises opened up this year? Clearly not — remember that fiasco? Where Manohar, on the morning of the bidding process, decided to postpone the exercise because he said the clauses are too stringent? It begs the question: how come the clauses were not discussed and approved by the council in advance? You knew, as BCCI boss and IPL council member, that there was to be an auction. The date was announced two months prior to the event. So why did it never occur to you, as the BCCI’s top honcho, to ask for details?

All the muck Manohar threw at Modi yesterday does not obscure that central fact: that the governing council is as responsible for this mess as Modi is. The buck stops at Manohar’s desk, not Modi’s — surely he cannot in one breath say the governing council is responsible for all decisions, and in the next claim total ignorance of the decisions that have been made?

Not to belabor the point, but consider again what he said yesterday:

“An allegation is being made and the media is saying all the members of the governing council are party to all the decisions.”

Right. When all else fails, blame the media. So did the media say this, or did you?

“Till date, you have made public statements about a lot of issues which were not even discussed in the meetings of the governing council when it is the governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard to each and every issue related to IPL.”

In the wake of Modi’s suspension, optimism surfaced in some quarters of the commentariat that the ongoing probe, both at the government and the BCCI levels, will result in a clean up of the functioning of the IPL in particular, and the board in general.

Manohar’s doublespeak is the clearest indication that no such thing will happen. The board’s focus is clearly in distancing itself from the mess, identifying Modi as the sole person responsible, and presenting him to the media and the public as ritual human sacrifice.

That done, we can all get back to business as usual — till the next scandal, the next sacrifice.

On an unrelated note — back on Yorker, the daily live show, today after a week-long absence. Here’s the link: it goes live between 3.30-4.30 IST.

10 thoughts on “Same difference

  1. Pingback: Dating and Mating: Reading the Body Language Signals | Dating Women Tips

  2. You had mentioned that the Franchisees wanted Ravi or Sunil to be the next IPL Chairman and not Shashank Manohar and the BCCI insisted on Shashank being the next IPL Chairman. It has been all over the news that he refused the post himself during the meeting and recommended Amin’s name because of his professional capabilities. So i had to ask if you have something against Mr.Manohar??

  3. Hi Prem,
    The only proven fault of Mr LKM is the fact that he broke the confidentiality clause of the (supposed) contract. I am certain, given all the previous leaks, this doesn’t warrant a suspension. A show-cause notice would have been sufficient and that would have given time for Mr LKM to either produce documents or sweep things under the carpet; there by retaining the credibility of the entire league.

    If Mr Sashank Manohar even cared about this league, then he would have given LKM the extra 5 days to respond. Unfortunately that doesn’t see to be his objective.

    On a different note, surprisingly I am not hearing any ‘sources in IT department’ ‘sources in ED’ news any more. Were all those ‘sources’ news aimed at ousting Modi from his position. Now that the objective is achieved the news naturally stopped. This clearly indicates this is vendetta politics that made all those news.

    I am not saying Mr LKM is a saint, but he definitely deserved time for an explanation. Let us all accept he is a marketing man par excellence. How many instance in the history of the game can one cite where by a major tournament was moved to a different continent within a short notice and also ensuring it was successful? I remember reading an article by Mike Artherton praising LKM’s management skills during the 2009 IPL venue shift.

    Such characters are like gold dust and we just saw BCCI / GOI grounding him to dust.

    • He has been given time for an explanation. 15 days. Note that he is merely suspended, not sacked. So if he has legitimate explanations, he can give them in the time allotted.

      That is merely standard procedure in corporations anyway. If I am suspected of wrongdoing, or allegations levelled against me, I will be suspended pending an inquiry, a time frame will be set for me to respond to the charges and produce evidence if any in my defense, and then a final decision will be taken.

      That is all that has happened here. So what is the fuss about?

      • Prem, accepted that he has been given time for explanation, but the same mess could have been handled in a much better way.

        The entire suspension drama was just mooted on the day of the finals wasn’t it?

        At the end of the day it is Indian Cricket’s image that takes a beating.

        The first thing my colleague at work asked me on Monday was about the mess that IPL management had created rather than the final itself. I was very proud of the way IPL had generated loads of interest when it was aired in ITV. But now that it is making news for all wrong reasons it is making me sick.

  4. I would have thought that the business of deciding on the service provider who organizes the awards function, would fall within the delegated authority of the CEO and the COO! The Board should look at the bigger deals (like TV Rights, franchise contracts, etc) and leave the small operational bits to people on the ground — provided it is within their well-defined and accepted delegated authority! The GC should have been looking at the big ticket items rather than awards function organizer contracts and toilet cleaner contracts! This is another example of bad governance by BCCI. Sad.

  5. Prem: Shashi Tharoor had to go out because he was accountable to the Party, Parliament and the Prime Minister. Modi had to go because there was BCCI on top of him. Shashank Manohar has none above him and as BCCI President is accountable to no one. Hence he gets away with talking rot.

    Isn’t it amusing that Amin has been rewarded for his inaction in the IPL GC all these years?

  6. The LKM saga will slowly be forgotten and ICC World T-20 will takeover and if India wins that then it will be ‘all iz well’ untill the next auction at least.
    LKM can keep the fire burning by his regular tweets although he does sound more and more arrogant inspite of the controversies.

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